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Blogshares Addiction and Suggestions

Blogshares Addiction and Suggestions

Yeah, right... as if I have time for this addiction.

A Bit of a Rant

June 11, 2005

That comment above, about not having the time, was a joke on my Blogshares profile when I first wrote it two weeks ago. I've come to realize it's really not a joke. This game is like a drug! The high from your first big 'score' (hugely profitable sale of shares or ideas) and reaching the goals they set for you keeps you coming back for more. Like a drug, you never quite get there again.

Why? After awhile, making money in the game is easy... as long as you're willing to put in all of your free time. Also, after you've started collecting ideas (which is a point all players reach if they play long enough), you've basically reached the end of the game. There are no more challenges. There's no "next level" to aspire to, so the game becomes nothing but a race for more of whatever you already have. Have a trillion dollars? Try for two, or ten, or B$100 Trillion, or be one of the ultra-elites and attain a Quadrillion!

Most players already know that Laila quotes Aristotle Onassis in her profile, saying that you'll reach a point where getting more money becomes meaningless, and playing the game is all that matters.

But why? Why does playing this game matter?

In the beginning, it's a fun challenge to reach for some goal: 100 karma so you can moderate votes, or 10,000 chips, or your first billion or trillion B$, or your first ten artefacts. After that... what? The social aspect of this game is extremely limited because of the lack of direct competition and player interaction, and we can't all be logged into IRC all day.

Blogshares is a fantasy world where everybody wins. If there are no goals, there should at least be risk.

The thrill of the hunt is the hunt itself, not the reward. The exhilaration of going after something, and taking the risk of failing, of losing something instead. Unfortunately, after a point, everything in Blogshares becomes so easy that "the hunt" is more like standing still with a spear and watching your lunch impale and cook itself.

Consider the top 25 players. What do they have to look forward to? There's no point at which they can say, "I won the game," so what can they do? Keep building more wealth, but for what?

Part of the problem is the addiction. You keep hoping for a repeat of that first big score, the high you felt from "getting rich" the first time. But it never happens.

Some of them, like Laila, turn into the game's matriarch. She has a whole lot of everything, so doesn't really play anymore. Instead, she just buys stuff from other players to help them build game wealth, and she hosts her own challenges to create more Premium players.

Aside: Laila is also one of the only players making real money from the game, as she sells B$ trillions for real-world dollars on eBay and via direct sale. The other top player, Mars/Iris Securities, has squashed her market for now because he's selling his B$ trillions for real money also with all real-world dollars going to charity. What a crazy world we live in.

Improving the Game

Having said all that, I have some suggestions for improving the game play. I hope this doesn't annoy too many people, too much.

  1. Natural disasters. Think "SimCity" and you'll know what I mean. Things that randomly go wrong, like huge storms, wars, raging monsters, alien attacks, or whatever. The disaster would hit a particular industry (and possibly, all of that industry's sub-industries), wiping out all or part of that industry's ideas on the open market, and possibly affecting privately-held ideas.
  2. Dissipating karma Karma should not be permanent. The real point of the game is to build the weblog index, but what's the personal motivation to vote after reaching the 750-karma mark? If karma tended to dissipate (slowly), players would be forced to continue voting, greatly increasing the value of the game.
  3. More Karma Rewards Again, after 750 karma, there is no further reward. Why not give the players a reason to keep voting? Only a small percentage of the blogs tracked by the game are actually categorized into industries. If there were greater rewards, another level of game-play, at 3,000 karma and 10,000 karma, players would reach it. It's as simple as that. With no goal, there's no point.
  4. Artefact Usage Artefacts are almost pointless. Occasionally, they're used for affecting the price of blogs or grabbing the shares from a particular blog, but mostly they're just used for inhaling ideas for free off of the market. Once you have an artefact, it's yours for good. You can't get rid of it, no matter what, and you can use it twice a day (after that magic 750 karma), every day, forever. Artefacts should have a limited life span. 25 or 50 uses, and they disintegrate unless you 'recharge them' with more ideas (which are consumed in the process). This would help alleviate the gigantic load of useless ideas on the market.
  5. Scrap the value limit of $25,000 per outgoing link. The blog shares market -- ostensibly the point of the game -- is nothing more than an introduction to the rest of the game because there's no way to make any real money by trading shares. Once you have enough money to buy ideas, and enough ideas to build artefacts, the money you can make from the ideas market completely dwarfs the money from the shares market. There will always be cheap blogs for the new users to buy, but the dedicated players need a reason to stay in the market. Also, I believe players are more likely to vote for shares they own, so giving the dedicated players another reason to stay in the market helps the blog index.
  6. Scaled Awards for Voting Some industries are extremely easy to vote for: gender, language, place, and (thanks to MSN Spaces) Teen Life and Student. Combined with other metadata, those industries add value to the index, but they're so easy to vote that the awards should be lower than what you get for more "interesting" votes. Or, said another way, perhaps some votes should have higher awards.
  7. Better Voting System I know the team that runs the game is already aware of this, but it bears repeating. The voting system sucks, badly. It's unbelievably slow (as it uses a server round-trip for every selection from the popup menus), industry descriptions are not provided while voting, and the menus only allow selections to four levels. Since the index is the game's raison d'etre, this should be fixed immediately! Scrap the whole thing and start over. If that's too much work, then at least load up the whole nested cateogry list from the start so that industries can be selected quicker, and let it be cached by the client (browser) for an hour or two. Make voting fun!
  8. Team Play If players could form partnerships and/or corporations in the game, especially if teams could compete against each other (somehow) and competition involved a real risk of loss, the social aspect of the game would be improved. Setting this up shouldn't require a huge amount of thought: just mimic the real world! Players invest some of their own capital to form a company, and the company produces something to be sold to other players in the game. Make sure the team play involves (or can involve) the blog index, of course, so that the game's focus isn't even further diverted than it already is.

That's all I have for now. I need to cut back on my "playing" for awhile, because I realized last night that I have nothing left to shoot for and the game has become too much like a job. I'll still be around (but not as much) and would be happy to discuss or even help code the implementation of any of these ideas.

Send me a private message or an email if you want to discuss any of this.

(Update: I posted a link in the forum, so let's disucss it there.)

Page last updated: 6/12/2005

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